Members of the New Mexico congressional delegation are fighting back against the Trump administration’s recent decision to make most of the nation’s plutonium “pits” – the cores of nuclear weapons – in South Carolina instead of at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
This week, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., successfully inserted an amendment into a Senate appropriations bill requiring a new, independent assessment of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s plan to divide pit production – an operation that brings with it billions of dollars in operational and facility funding – between LANL and another federal lab in South Carolina.
A similar measure in the House of Representatives is supported by all three U.S. representatives from New Mexico – Democrats Ben Ray Luján and gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Steve Pearce – according to online congressional documents.
The Senate and House amendments call for NNSA – a semi-autonomous wing of the Department of Energy that oversees national labs – to hire a contractor to “conduct an independent assessment” of the decision to make pits at two sites. The report would be due seven months after the amendment becomes law, and NNSA couldn’t proceed with conceptual design for its pit production plan until the review contractor is in place.